The New Civics ECSP Story so far:
Defining ‘New Civics’ and Contributing to the Field
The New Civics agenda guides the Spencer Foundation’s support for our Early Career Scholars’ Program and we hope to contribute significantly to it. This agenda challenges the conventional emphasis on civic action as primarily voting behavior, and also disrupts the assumption that its antecedents are largely in the formal school environment. New Civics work has massively expanded the definition of participation. It has widened questions about the origins of active participation (and of alienation): What information is important, beyond civic knowledge? What salient skill and efficacy-building experiences happen beyond the democratic classroom? Our Early Career Scholars’ work in internship teams and dissertation projects has contributed to these valuable developments, as the website demonstrates.
We are seeing a sea-change, a shift of perspective. ‘Expanding’ a field or topic can be just ‘adding on’ – rich, but not necessarily transformative. For a field truly to expand, it is essential to see things differently.
How does immersing ourselves in a field do this? Our ECSP Scholars’ reflections on their experiences are attached. Five themes in their accounts reflect transformations. The five themes are:
- conceptualizing community,
- how identity is central,
- the radical civic and cultural impact of new media,
- the reality and origins of ‘civic skills’,
- what institutional structures and groups should we be targeting?
In each case, our Scholars’ work challenges some prior assumptions in the field.
Workshop dates for the 2015-2016 academic year:
Scholars In The News
We are pleased to announce that ECSP Scholar, Matthew Shaw, has received the prestigious Law and Society Association/American Bar Foundation doctoral dissertation fellowship!
“A Reevaluation of Postwar Liberal Consensus: Democracy, Race, and Education” Posted on November 8, 2013 by Andrew Hartman
The New Civics Early Career Scholars Program is designed to train doctoral students for research in civic engagement and civic education. Generously funded by the Spencer Foundation, it will equip researchers to contribute to developing ‘New Civics’, a broader, more realistic view of civic engagement. What motivates and empowers such action – and also what inhibits it? Where does it fit in young people’s lives, and into social and political capital? We need this work to create effective civic education programs, to harness young people’s civic energies, and to address alienation and disempowerment. We need a definition of ‘civic participation’ that encompasses what young people actually do in the public domain.
What we hope to achieve:
- A cohort of researchers who are well trained for developing research, policy and practice in New Civics
- A community of scholars who together will move forward, elaborate and disseminate a definition of New Civics that informs public and policy, as well as scholarly thinking about civic engagement.
- A framework for developing effective civic education, nationally and internationally, within and outside school, that promotes empowered young citizens
- A body of research from students, faculty and practitioners that significantly progresses civic-related theory, methodology and application across disciplines.
The Early Career Scholars’ Program is run by Helen Haste, Robert Selman, Meira Levinson and Howard Gardner, with coordinator Julia Higdon.